Daniel Mananta Talks About His Upcoming Film With the Mo Brothers and More

A DAMN FINE PATRIOT. Daniel Mananta is known for being one of the hottest MC’s in Indonesia, but he has also made a name for himself as an entrepreneur and producer through his Damn Inc. media and fashion empire


Outfit by Tommy Hilfiger

This issue marks the third time Daniel Mananta has graced the pages of this magazine, proving he’s a celebrity with staying power.  After rising to fame as a VJ on MTV, he has gone on to become one of Indonesia’s most sought after presenters as well as a highly successful entrepreneur.

When DA MAN last caught up with Daniel about two years, he was just about to embark on a new venture, Damn Inc, an extension of his popular clothing brand Damn! I Love Indonesia that would see him and his partners delve into the realms of music, modeling, event planning and movie production.

“That was during the birth of Damn Inc. I think it was about two weeks after that that we launched it to the public,” Daniel said, referring to his last DA MAN profile. Asked about the current status of the company, he replied, “Lots of stuff is going well. The modeling agency has been doing well. Some of our clients include the winner of the Miss Estonia pageant, as well as one the runners up from Russia’s Next Top Model.” He mentioned that the company was also making strides in the event planning realm, doing high-profile events for brands like Johnny Walker.

Outfit by Banana Republic

His Damn! I Love Indonesia clothing brand continues to expand and find new fans. “This year we’re trying to expand up to 10 stores, as well as launch a new web store. We also have a new slogan for the brand that we’re focusing on, which is ‘Patriot is me.’ It’s a play on the Indonesian word for patriotism. I want to get the younger generation of Indonesians to feel patriotic about their own country. Patriotism doesn’t mean you want to go to war for your country. It’s about being proud of your own culture, your own history. It means sharing good news about Indonesia with anybody and everybody.”

Of course his work with Damn Inc is only one of the things keeping Daniel’s schedule packed. He is always in demand as a host and presenter, and he is constantly kept in the public’s eye do to his role as MC of Indonesian Idol, for which he recently took home the Panasonic Award for Best Presenter on a Talent Show. He said it’s tough to pick and choose from the many gigs he gets offered.

“I have to be quite picky nowadays because I’m doing Indonesian Idol, so I have to be sure the other events that I do are at a similar level. I did Miss Indonesia, and, it hasn’t been confirmed yet but, I’ll probably be hosting the Miss World pageant and the Mr. Universe competition later this year. Those are world class events, so they would be good for me as well as great experiences.”

Even though Daniel has had plenty of experience hosting such high-profile events, he said, “I still get nervous every single time! I still get those butterflies in my belly, and sometimes I still feel like I want to throw up. People don’t know that my legs are constantly shaking. But usually just through the first segment, because that’s what decides if the event is going to go well or not.”

“I once spoke to Bob Tutupoly, a very senior presenter as well as a popular singer back in the day. I met him before he was about to do a gig on MTV and he was practicing his lines and pacing around. I said to him, ‘Om Bob, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you’re still nervous. You’ve been in the business for over 40 years now. Do you really still get nervous?’”

“And he said to me, ‘Of course I am!’ I asked him why and he answered, ‘Once you’re not nervous about doing a show, that means that you don’t care about it anymore. You don’t want to give your best. We all get nervous because we are scared of doing something wrong or not being entertaining enough. So if you still get nervous, it means you care about your job, you’re still passionate about it.’ So I would say I’m still very grateful for my nervousness,” Daniel said with a laugh.

Outfit by H.E. by Mango

One of the projects that has Daniel the most excited these days is one in which he is playing a big role behind the camera. “The movie that I’m producing, Killers, is premiering here in Indonesia in October and in Japan February of next year. Right now we are also negotiating the distribution rights for the film in four different countries — Turkey, France, Germany and Hong Kong.”

Killers is a project long in the making. “Three years ago, one of my really good friends, Timo Tjahjanto – one of the Mo Brothers, who directed the film Rumah Dara, which I starred in – told they had a new project that they were working on and that it was going to be awesome.”

“So they asked me to look at the script. I read it and I thought, ‘Man, this is so mindblowingly good!’ I felt like I had to get involved. Because at the time, I was just starting Damn Inc, including the movie production side. So we tried to find investors and I put some of my own money into the project, which is why I am an executive producer.”

Jeans by Tommy Hilfiger

The Mo Brothers, who are renowned for their groundbreaking horror films, envisioned Killers as a cross-cultural thriller. It tells the twisted tale of a Japanese serial killer and his Indonesian copycat. As such, the film is one of the first joint productions between Indonesian and Japanese filmmakers.

With the Mo Brother’s reputation and Daniel’s support, everything for the movie seemed to be falling into place. “There came a point when everything seems done, about two years ago. We had the investors from the Japanese side, the investors from the Indonesian side, the directors were ready to go and the producers from Japan were very excited. So we said ‘Okay, let’s move on to the next step and let the shooting begin. And that’s when the tsunami hit Japan. The whole thing got canceled and the investors just backed off.”

“But we forged ahead as best we could. About a year ago we went to the Pusan Film Festival, where a lot of people had heard the buzz about Killers. All we had at that time was a synopsis of the plot, but the buzz was so good that eight different production houses said they were willing to invest in our movie, including Nikkatsu. Nikkatsu is Japan’s oldest major film studio, and they’ve done everything from black and white films to adult movies. But now they want to revamp their image and the first film they want to do that with is Killers.”

While Daniel is extremely excited with the film’s final cut, he said he had no regrets that he wasn’t in the film itself, since he didn’t think there was a part that was right for him in the script. He said that more acting roles were certainly a possibility in the future, and he mentioned that he had a small role in the upcoming sequel to The Raid.

Hoodie by Damn I Love Indonesia

Although he is constantly in the public eye, Daniel does his best to keep his private life hidden from the media. Of course that hardly stops the speculation. When asked what his reply is to gossip journalists who argue ‘That’s the price of fame,’ Daniel said, “I don’t want to be a diva. I respect their jobs and I appreciate that they are curious about my personal life. But I’ve had bad experiences. I don’t talk about this with most media, but I know your readers are smart and have a sense of humor about these things.”

“When my ex-girlfriend, Marissa Nasution, and I went public with our relationship, so many journalists and gossip shows asked about how we first met. I got so bored of answering the question over and over, so I started making up different answers every time, until I had told about 10 different versions of the story. I got really creative – I told one media that we went surfing together for an MTV shoot and Marissa fell into the water, so I had to save her from drowning. There was another story where we were on a plane and we were queuing up for the bathroom. Suddenly there was turbulence and Marissa fell into my arms. I told so many different versions of the story that I forgot some of them. The real story was boring – we just met at a club. Then one day, there was a TV show about boyfriends saving their girlfriend’s lives, and somebody from the show called me asking if they could interview me about the surfing story. And I told them. ‘Ohhh, right. Actually I’m very private now and I don’t want to talk about it.’ So after that, I stopped bullshitting them,” he said with a laugh.

“Pretty soon after we went public with our relationship, these infotainment shows started creating all this gossip by asking us when we were going to get married. We had only been dating for six months and they were already asking about marriage! And because of that, all of a sudden, we started talking about marriage off camera. On camera, I would joke about it and say things like, ‘Well, I’m pretty cool with Marissa but there’s so much more to explore…’ And suddenly, we were fighting off-camera.” “The shows created more gossip about things like Marissa seeing somebody else. Our problems didn’t start with us, it started with the gossip shows. So since then, I’ve decided to keep things private. It’s for me to know and it’s not really anybody else’s business. But they’re going to keep talking about it, and that’s fine. Lady Gaga once said, ‘It’s better to be talked about then not talked about.’ So that’s what I tell the media. They can talk and speculate as much as they want, but at the end of the day, only God, my family and I truly know me. And that’s all that really matters to me.”

Photographs Mario Ardi
Styling Peter Zewet
Videographer Dimas Anggakara